Ranking the 10 best trips to our special place
Back in ’99, video games beat even movies in discovering the best kind of horror comes from within our deepest resentments, not just from neat jumpscares. Team Silent is the name of the band of misfits responsible for creating Silent Hill. Still, despite continued critical success, Konami decided to pull the plug on Team Silent and began outsourcing the series to random companies after the fourth game. Let’s first look at the series’s predictably sad decline, then at its glory days.
10. Silent Hill: Origins
Silent Hill: Origins belongs to a cursed batch of Silent Hill titles made after Konami decided that they didn’t like making Silent Hill games anymore. If what you love about Silent Hill is its psychological horror, then you won’t like this one. The biggest mind-scare we got out of Origins came prior to its release. It was when we learned that Konami outsourced a development team to create a prequel that “explained” aspects of Silent Hill.
Gameplay-wise, Origins fits the mold of a classic Silent Hill game, but it commits the unforgivable crime of trying to change aspects of pre-established and beloved lore. That’s especially offensive since the outsourced newcomers behind this are messing with the work of a different team, the team responsible for creating Silent Hill in the first place.
Spoilers: Who would want to know that the Red Pyramid Thing, aka the Pyramid Head, aka one of the most iconic and meaningful monsters ever, isn’t the projection of someone’s extreme psychological trauma but rather just some monster created in a lab?
Strengths: It kind of looks like the games we like, so it works for players who want to experience some nostalgia.
Weaknesses: It changes the established canon without at least adding to the gameplay as well.
9. Silent Hill: Book Of Memories
Gameplay-wise, Book Of Memories shows Silent Hill at its weirdest. Instead of the Resident Evil-inspired tank controls we know the series for, we get a more action-oriented isometric shooter. You could make the case that this is less Silent Hill and more Lara Croft and the Guardian Of Light, but at least the developers cared enough to make something that fit the PlayStation Vita’s more mobile style.
Strengths: It’s an attempt at something fresh.
Weaknesses: Silent Hill really doesn’t work as an action title. Out of all horror games, this is the one that should stay far away from guns-blazing shenanigans the most.
8. Silent Hill: Homecoming
Homecoming hits the same beats as Origins, but at least it isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel by turning it into a square. It’s yet another passable attempt to fit what we like about Silent Hill into a neat package, then sell it to hungry fans.
Strengths: It looks like Silent Hill, again.
Weaknesses: The fog effects somehow don’t look as good as they did even on the PS1. The characters are almost as unmemorable as “cap protagonist” from Origins. Also, you can accidentally get the UFO ending on your first run, resulting in a hilariously confusing conclusion to the story.
7. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Unlike Origins, a prequel that brings unsolicited changes to the series, Shattered Memories set out to reboot it all. We actually salute this bold approach. It works less as a retcon, and more like a reimagining that can coexist with the original vision.
Strengths: The developers fully revamped the gameplay to fit the Wii remote’s playstyle and it works, for the most part.
Weaknesses: It feels too fast-paced at times. It’s never as scary or as memorable as the original game. It replaces the fog with snow and that’s just not as cool.
6. Silent Hill: Downpour
Downpour is easily the best post-Team Silent game in the series. While not exactly great on its own, it uses the strength of its setting to tell a new story without messing with the established world. It also adds some neat new gameplay mechanics and a few new areas that look good if your definition of good is sick and twisted.
Strengths: It tried to enrich Silent Hill with grand setpieces and its characters with moral choice mechanics. The Resident Evil 4-inspired over-the-shoulder cam works well here.
Weaknesses: The SAW-esque setpieces don’t work with this game.
5. Silent Hill 4: The Room
Don’t let the title fool you. The Room wasn’t originally a sequel to Silent Hill 3. Konami developed both games more or less at the same time, relegating a much smaller team to the development of this game that ended up with the series’ weight on its shoulders.
Unfortunately, Silent Hill 4 doesn’t look or play as well as its “predecessor,” but it also brings some cool stuff to the table. The game features a new story, probably courtesy of it gestating outside the franchise womb. It also introduces an awesome new central mechanic, one that entraps the player in his haunted apartment. The apartment serves as a hub world players will interact with in a first-person perspective to solve the mystery behind their imprisonment.
Strengths: The new 1st-person Hub Room rocks.
Weaknesses: It doesn’t look as good as SH 3, nor do its areas feel as inspired. Its gameplay already felt outdated by release, and it got even worse a few months later when Resident Evil 4 changed the world of games.
4. Silent Hill 3
Silent Hill 2 delivered what some wanted the most, but not what most wanted.
Silent Hill 3 gives fans a direct sequel to the original game, one that still manages to avoid feeling overblown. It invites players to a less nuanced nightmare than SH2 but makes up for its narrative shortcomings with a lot of class. The game showed both the PS2 and Team Silent at the peak of their powers by delivering an unexpected contender for the title of the most beautiful game ever made.
Strengths: A horror game has never looked this beautiful — yes, even though it’s from the PS2 era. The new main character is very likable and it features some of the coolest areas in the series.
Weaknesses: It doesn’t try to hit the nerve that the series struck so well in the previous sequel.
3. Silent Hill
Silent Hill resulted from tasking a bunch of studio misfits to cash in on the survival horror craze started by Resident Evil. Nothing about it is short of a miracle. Its most iconic element, the fog that fully embraces the town? Merely the developers’ way of hiding enough play area to make the game playable on PS1 hardware.
This is the game that changed everything, all the while swimming against all sorts of wicked tides. Out of nowhere, jumpscares began giving way to mood, atmosphere, and deeper horror that didn’t even necessarily show up on the screen.
Strengths: The introduction of 3d environments and accompanying aesthetics, the sound, the mystery, and the ingenuity to turn the limitations of the PS1 into the game’s strengths.
Weaknesses: The controls felt clunky at times, but one has to wonder if that hadn’t been intentional all along.
Ok, let us get a few things out of the way.
P.T., the playable teaser for the once-upcoming Silent Hills, isn’t a full game. It’s also not made by Team Silent, the people we’d really love to see helming the series. It doesn’t even feature much gameplay, per se. Still, this nightmare by the mind of Hideo Kojima hit everyone so hard in 2014 that it completely reshaped the horror genre.
If Silent Hill owed its existence to the Resident Evil series, it more than paid off its debt by directly inspiring the Resident Evil renaissance we’ve been witnessing ever since the release of RE 7.
P.T. doesn’t just take players to an endlessly repetitive corridor. It shows players how much horror it can fit into so little and invites them to imagine just how much it could have done with an entire town.
Strengths: You might never find a more immersive experience in horror.
Weaknesses: It’s hard to play these days and we’ll probably never get any more of it.
1. Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 surpassed its predecessor because instead of expanding like most sequels do, it looked inward and took the game in a more deeply personal direction.
Though not a direct sequel, SH2 improves upon all the good seeds that the original had planted and tells one of the most engrossing tales in the history of gaming. Also, did we mention that those PS2 graphics used to look top-notch back in the day?
Strengths: The rare sequel that resists just making everything bigger and bloodier. Silent Hill 2 understood that to surpass SH1, it had to expand only when it came to character development. Ok, that’s a lie. The game also looks much better than the first one.
Weaknesses: It set too high a standard for every other horror story that followed.